Traffic-ticket watchdogs get ear of city hall on Tuesday
WiseupWinnipeg argues some enforcement strategies aim to pad police budget
By: Gordon Sinclair Jr. – Winnipeg Free Press
Posted: 05/30/2016 3:45 PM
It’s been a long, twisting, traffic-ticket-littered road for WiseupWinnipeg’s Todd Dube and Chris Sweryde, our version of Batman-and Robin in the battle for traffic enforcement justice.
Starting from the day eight years ago when Dube was tagged with a red-light ticket going 80 km/h in a 80 km/h zone, after being caught by photo radar in the so-called “dilemma zone”. That’s the stretch of road that starts when the green light turns amber and the driver has to make a quick decision.
Stop or go.
In Dube’s case the amber light — and hence the dilemma zone — only lasted four seconds. He still argues that a four-second amber — that he says overshot by a tenth-of-a second — wasn’t enough time at that rate of posted speed. Over the years, the city’s so-called “static” four-second amber-light length for all speeds and all intersections would become one of Wiseup’s biggest targets for change.
For some observers, Dube, a 52-year-old father of two and marketing company owner, and Sweryde, a 29-year-old University of Manitoba sociology major, have been seen less as crusaders and more as crackpots.
“Here’s the misnomer we have to address,” Dube said Sunday when I sat with both Batman and Robin as a pair of chirping budgies swooped through the living room of his country home south of the city. “The media, five or six years later, still characterize us as a group about the right to speed, or right to run red lights. Anti-traffic-police, anti -ticketing. It’s the farthest thing from the truth. We’re talking about enforcement abuses which are unique to Winnipeg.”
Dube says he knows that sounds unbelievable.
“It sounds like a conspiratorial thing. It just isn’t.”
Actually, their damning, deeply disturbing, if somewhat dated, hour-long power-point presentation does make the case for a conspiracy by the city traffic engineering department and the police service to create intersections and roadways where traffic ticket revenue can be maximized.
In other words, it’s like speed traps. But red-light traps, and even turning-lane traps.
“The city takes the position that they don’t tell the police where to enforce,” Dube explains, “and the police take the position that they don’t tell the city how to sign. A very convenient and profitable disconnect. And so it goes on – for decades.”
That’s not how it works in at least one other Canadian city, says Sweryde. He spoke recently with a traffic sergeant in Halifax.
“They sit down with the city engineers every month and say, ‘we noticed abnormal numbers of speeding here. Can you put an extra sign up? Or this sign is crooked, can you fix this? Here in Winnipeg they say, ‘well, we’re not traffic engineers, we’re not qualified to tell the city where signs are missing’.”
Wiseup’s presentation — complete with charts, statistics, traffic tickets exhibits and photos — makes a strong case that the city has ignored engineering deficiencies as a way of maximizing traffic enforcement profits and topping up the police budget by millions of dollars. And at the expense of unwitting motorists.
True or not, gradually — one small victory at a time — Wiseup and its core group of what Dube says is 5,000 Facebook followers, are not only being listened to by both national and local media, they’re beginning to earn a little respect. Maybe even a lot. What’s happening Tuesday, for instance, could be a major breakthrough.
Dube and Sweryde are scheduled to meet privately with two city hall leaders who could make a difference. If, that is, the city’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Jack and Public Works Committee chair and deputy mayor Janice Lukes do more than politely watch and listen to the powerful power-point presentation.
As it happened, it was one of those aforementioned small victories that brought Lukes and Jack to the table on Tuesday.
Last month, there was a media account about a reduce-to-30 road sign that had been missing for three months from a school zone on Panet Road. Using information elicited from a Freedom of Information request, Dube claims that the location was the No. 1 ranked school zone for volume of speeding tickets. The day after that story appeared, the missing sign went up. According to Dube, a reporter subsequently asked Lukes when the city was finally planning to meet with WUW.
“It was following that,” Dube said, “that we received the meeting request.”
I want to believe that the two civic leaders will not only learn something, but do something, after they watch the WiseupWinnipeg presentation. That public safety and doing the right thing will win out over the pressing need to pad the police budget. Or at least do something about the dangerously short ambers at high-speed intersections. Anyway, now it’s the city’s top bureaucrat and the deputy mayor who are in the dilemma zone. But, alas, somehow I can’t picture them applying the brakes.
Not in our own Gotham by the Red Light.
Read more by Gordon Sinclair Jr..
Here is the follow up article.
Winnipeg Free Press
Traffic-ticket fighters hit city roadblock
Gordon Sinclair Jr.
Posted: 06/9/2016 4:00 AM| Last Modified: 06/9/2016 8:06 AM |
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…
It’s been more than a week since Todd Dube and Chris Sweryda of Wise Up Winnipeg finally had the meeting they hoped would be a breakthrough session with the city. The two crusaders for traffic-enforcement justice gave their compelling hour-long, PowerPoint presentation to Michael Jack, the city’s chief operating officer; and Janice Lukes, the public works committee chairwoman. The session went beyond the hour, which, speaking as someone who has sat through it, doesn’t surprise me.
Later, Dube said Jack and Lukes were surprised with the content.
As I wrote late last month, Wise Up’s presentation — complete with charts, statistics, traffic tickets, exhibits and photos — makes a strong case that the city has ignored engineering deficiencies, such as short amber lights at high-speed intersections, as a way of maximizing traffic-enforcement profits and topping up the police budget by millions of dollars — at the expense of unwitting motorists.
Wednesday, I emailed both Jack and Lukes, asking them what they thought of the presentation and whether they would follow up on what they may have learned last week. Lukes’s emailed response said, in part: “I found it ‘interesting’ what Mr. Dube said. He may (have) felt I was surprised — I was interested in what he had to say — like I am with all folks who I meet with to tell me great stories.”
She went on to stress the obvious — that she’s not a traffic engineer or a cop — and to add this: “I do not know if what he presented was true or not — I do not know if his so-called inadequacies and substandard engineer(ing) and unfair enforcement is true or not… I listened. And will be meeting with the department to discuss further and listen to the professionals.”
As for the COO, he responded through an email composed by one of the city’s media handlers.
“Mr. Jack and Coun. Lukes met with Mr. Dube and his associate Chris Sweryda, received their presentation and had a respectful, thorough discussion. Mr. Dube and Mr. Sweryda raised a number of allegations regarding signage, speed limits and traffic law enforcement. Mr. Jack will be discussing the content of their presentation with appropriate members of the public service.”
Reading between the lines, I saw no point in asking the obvious followup question.
It is more than upsetting that on one hand mayor Bowman, Lukes and others past and present at city council and some at the province have ignored their own traffic engineering experts including banning them from attending meetings where speed limits, signage etc… discussed and then have the nerve to tell Gordon Sinclair and the rest of us once again that they themselves are not experts in these matters so will talk to their experts or professionals.
Meanwhile collecting 100’s of millions since at least 2003 from unfair or illegally traffic tickets due to engineering deficiencies and then abuse the public even more in traffic court when they contest. Much of this goes out if province via 3rd part photo radar partner ACS / Xerox. Extrapolated this due to the way money changes hands and it is Billions lost from the local economy.
How are more people not fed up enough already to do something about it? We need to start protesting in large numbers at the Leg and City hall and take them to the courts where they can’t just duck out and outright lie like this in our faces.
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